Demand for labour dropped by up to 70% last month as the lockdown hit, according to the largest payer of subcontractors in the UK construction industry.
And Hudson Contract said building firms are asking tradespeople to cut their rates by 10-30% cent to share the costs of reduced output as sites restart.
Ian Anfield, managing director, said: “The number of people we paid dropped by up to 70% in the space of three weeks last month.
“The number is steadily rising again as more sites reopen with many clients telling us they are going back to work on Monday, May 11.
“Construction output will be lower and costs will be higher as firms figure out ways for people to work safely on site. This is why they are asking tradespeople to cut their rates.”
Anfield added that a number of clients are reporting strong demand to price new projects as a result of pent-up demand.
Hudson Contract’s latest figures show earnings for subcontractors fell by an average of 18.2% in April as the lockdown shut building sites across the UK.
Analysis of payroll data for more than 2,200 construction companies shows a weekly average of £734 for freelancers in April, down from £897 in March, and the lowest level since January 2015.
The worst hit areas were Yorkshire and the Humber (-32.1%), the South West (-26.9%) and Wales (-25.2%).
Bricklaying gangs hit by double pay cut whammy
Bricklaying price gangs fear the latest attempt to cut pay rates will compound losses caused by social distancing on site.
One bricklayer based in Kent told the Enquirer: “We have recently returned to work as a gang with a ratio of 2:1 (two brick layers and one hod carrier) doing price work.
“We are already experiencing a pay cut due to the 2 metre social distancing rule that has been adopted on our site.
“As a small gang, this is easy to adhere to but doesn’t come without its financial implications because our output is down by around 25%.
“Every time our spot boards need reloading with muck, we have to stand clear of our hod carrier, the same goes for bricks.
“Usually, we would continue working whilst the hod carrier relentlessly struggles to keep us going and they are forced to work around us.
“Now however, we are working around him. This costs us a lot of time compared to conventionally working and we have noticed it financially.
“Thankful as we are to be back at work, we have already taken a very large pay cut of somewhere in the region of £200‐£250 a week each as bricklayers.
“If our rates get dropped on top of that we will find that our money wouldn’t be any different to what it was in the financial crisis of 2008. Working for approximately £100‐£120 a day – half of what we’re earning now.
“Tradespeople and subcontractors alike need to stand united on this front and not allow the big boys to grind down the small companies and individuals that are essential to them, especially in trades that already have a very apparent skill shortage.”